Review Summary: Aerie faerie eye catching nonsense makes no sense at all
After the success of 2012’s Invicta
, it seemed as The Enid had a definite future. Joe Payne was making a name for himself within the progressive community for his marvelous vocal prowess, while Jason Ducker was emerging as a guitarist to keep an eye on. Robert John Godfrey was further cementing his legacy, and was finally getting the recognition that he deserved after decades of painstaking effort. Yet, with success always came complications far greater than anyone could comprehend. Upon driving home one day, Godfrey had lost his way and couldn’t remember even the most minor details, leading to the revelation that he had Alzheimer’s disease.
After Godfrey’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2014, the decision was made to gradually step down as bandleader, marking a shocking, yet vital upheaval if The Enid were to survive without him in the event that he was no longer able to perform due to his condition. Due to the change in power within the band, Godfrey was now playing a role more akin to support with the hopes that frontman Joe Payne would assume the role of bandleader. This plan would take form starting with 2015’s The Bridge
, the first in a series of albums that would showcase individual members of the band, this one focusing on Payne and his budding songwriting abilities.
, the follow-up to 2012’s Invicta
, is the third and final part of the “Journey’s End” trilogy – spanning over six years, the trilogy brought forth a more streamlined sound that The Enid hadn’t displayed since the 1980s. The band had also changed lineups within that period, with Joe Payne making his arrival on Invicta
, taking over Max Read’s role as the band’s vocalist. Nic Willes left in 2014 (though he performed on this album), Dominic Tofield left as quickly as he had shown up, and Zachary Bullock was brought in as Godfrey’s protégé. The Enid simply just can’t keep a consistent lineup from the looks of it.
In recent times, Godfrey has never been the most kind figure in the progressive rock community, seemingly always eager to aim rather harsh criticism at his contemporaries; such as Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, with such quotes like “prog is bog” and describing the content as being “shallow, meaningless nonsense”, decrying a genre that has admittedly grown stagnant in recent years. Godfrey’s complaints are, for the most part, startlingly on point. The general formula for the progressive community has come down to an idea that an artist must replicate the sound of classic artists, with Wilson and Opeth being among the many who have the talent to make such inspiring music, yet churn out albums that imitate the classics without fail. With Godfrey’s scathing criticisms in mind, that is where the problem with The Enid’s latest offering, Dust
From first listen, it’s glaringly obvious that the influence that Joe Payne has on the band is growing, with every single song over the forty-two minute album being replete with his high, operatic vocals. The arrangements throughout the album, in comparison to Journey’s End
, are at worst, unimpressive. The band almost seems preoccupied with trying to fit Payne’s lyrics with the most rambunctious music possible to a point where you wouldn’t be able to tell if this was a prog rock album or a low-end musical theatre production at the West End in London. From the very start, ”Born in the Fire”
could pass off as the loud, obnoxious introduction to a stage play, vocal acrobatics and all. It’s all there, and it surely doesn’t let up for the duration of Dust
, even in its best moments. Glimpses of Godfrey’s compositional ability shine through in the patriotic-sounding ”Someone Shall Rise”
and album highlight "1000 Stars"
, but for the most part, it hardly feels like he’s even present on the album. However, Godfrey is credited as being a composer for all seven songs on Dust
, alongside Payne, Read, and Ducker.
Unfortunately, the problem that plagues Dust
is the very criticism that Godfrey had doted about. A solid degree of Dust
contains the bored, insipid instrumentation and questionable lyricism that offers (and I quote Godfrey on this) “no content that is memorable or meaningful”. Dust
has its moments, but for every highlight, there are segments complete with Payne’s overbearing vocals that make the experience one that you’d want to forget. The callbacks to the previous two albums of the trilogy are neat inclusions, but tend to get tiring when you have to hear the oft-repeated “you’re welcome” just to remind the listener that this is, in fact, a series of albums with a concept that often gets lost on the listener, even on subsequent listens. The band’s shortest album in quite a while, Dust
has a knack for melody and to a lesser extent, rhythm. The band plays great together despite the near constant shifts within the lineup, but tends to get obscured by Payne. It’s a shame, because while Payne does have a great voice, he’s just there
sometimes. Moments where the band could shine are eclipsed by Payne trying his best to show off his abilities as the band’s singer to a point where it gets incredibly tedious to deal with. Whereas Invicta
had made the compromise between the vocal and instrumental factions, Dust
forsakes the latter to make a very melodious album, yet comes across as uninspired at points.
As the final album of the “Journey’s End” trilogy, Dust
is a considerably forgettable album that has its flashes of brilliance, but is certainly part of the problem within the progressive community.